Accessibility and the church: creating a community of faith, love and inclusion

Being inclusive when it comes to disabilities gets more challenging and harder for people to understand once we begin to move beyond visible physical disabilities.

As members of the congregation get older, various disabilities might need to be addressed to keep members engaged and included.

It’s the hidden disabilities that requires people being willing to be educated about the barriers that need to be removed. Here is a post about initiatives being taken in the Uniting Church in Australia.

https://wp.me/p491Ag-pGK Link to the original post or read it below.

We celebrate International Day of People with Disability on 3 December, but how inclusive are we really in the church – spiritually, physically and online?

Accessibility in churches reaches beyond the physical barriers, and can also be about social inclusion and good theology around disability.

Robbie Muir, from Maylands Mount Lawley Uniting Church, lives with hearing and sight disabilities and feels it is important to teach the church how to be more inclusive. He also works with Good Sammy Enterprises, volunteers with Revive packing, and sits on the Uniting Church WA Disability Royal Commission Synod Task Group. He has presented his thoughts to Presbytery of WA meetings in the past, to encourage churches to become more accessible.

“A lot of my experience has been trying to teach the church what to do,” he said. “It’s alright for people to say ‘oh yes we care for the disabled’, but if they haven’t got things in place, it’s no good.”

Robbie encourages congregations to use overhead screens that are clear to see and free of backgrounds or busy images; make available large print copies of texts; provide hearing loops that are down the front of the church; have good lighting; have minimal steps or provide ramps; and have bathrooms that are easily accessible.

He thanked the church for its progression in this area, but also said he would like the church to be more aware of the issues that affect people with a disability and their inclusion in church.

“Quite often we’ve had to come up with ways to get around things,” he said. “I have an IrisVision that I can put on and see the overheads, but for a few weeks we had somebody who couldn’t do the overheads and we had sheets – and no one enlarged the hymns for me.

“It makes you feel a bit useless and that the church isn’t for you. It makes you feel isolated and excluded.”

He also encourages people to talk to members of their congregation who have a disability, and ask them what would help their experience at church.

“I think a lot of people don’t talk to the disabled because they think they’re stupid or don’t understand. Ask the disabled person [what they need], don’t just think ‘oh well they’ll manage’. Ask them. We’re not dumb, we’re not stupid.”

Dr Scott Hollier, CEO of The Centre for Accessibility Australia, is passionate about supporting organisations to create accessible digital spaces. He is also legally blind, and a member of Kalamunda Uniting Church.

Scott said that creating accessible spaces, and therefore inclusion, for people living with disability, is easier than we think. With some intentional thinking and planning, we can all get better at creating an accessible environment.

“Look at the quick wins,” Scott said. “You don’t have to solve every disability issue instantly; it will be a journey. But once the key pieces are in place it becomes a different way of doing things, rather than extra work.

“For example, once you’ve got that slide template high contrast, well, every slide will be high contrast. 

“Quite often it is just about an awareness. Once people are aware of it and people are happy to do it, then it just happens after that point going forward.”

Melanie Kiely, CEO of Good Sammy Enterprises, a Uniting Church WA agency providing employment solutions for people living with disability, agrees that our digital  and physical spaces need accessibility, and that we can go further on inclusivity.

“It’s so much more than just space and physical accessibility. If we just focus on that then we’ve lost an opportunity here,” Melanie said. 

“It’s about inclusion, it’s about welcoming and embracing everybody – regardless of their ability and their background – into a church environment.

“It’s what we cover in the sermon, it’s the language we use, it’s the hymnbooks we use. Obviously, it’s the ramps and what have you, but it’s more than that.

“It’s about running churches that embrace everyone.

“We should be having people with disability in every church service as part of everything we do in the church. And they should feel completely included and we should learn from them, as much as they can learn from us.

“We’re about creating a community of faith, love and inclusion – that’s what I would like to see.

“Include everyone in the sermon, let them talk about their experience. Let’s include them in the choir, playing music and in the art. Include all levels of creativity, so that we’re embracing the differences of all our people in our congregations. 

Melanie said that living with a disability does not have to be a negative thing. All people are unique and have gifts and skills, which should be welcomed and celebrated.

“We shouldn’t assume people  with disability are flawed. We’re  all different, we all have abilities  of different natures and we shouldn’t assume that people  need to be fixed,” she said.

“We should accept people and embrace people with all their  unique and special characteristics.

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability (Royal Commission) was established in April 2019 and is still ongoing. It is likely that the Uniting Church WA will be affected by the Royal Commission. However, the church has a longstanding belief of inclusiveness, and works towards this end.

Dr Scott Hollier said that the Royal Commission is an opportunity for us to learn from the past.

“I think the Royal Commission has revealed that people with disability have not always been treated well in the church, and that needs to be acknowledged,” he said.

“I think the Uniting Church has done well in acknowledging the issues and trying to put processes in place going forward, and I think that’s a good thing.

“That said, my focus, and the focus at the Centre and as a legally blind person, is that we need to learn from the past.  The Royal Commission has been important in understanding what has happened.

“Accessibility – whilst certainly that type of exclusion is nothing on the scale of physical abuse and spiritual abuse – does tap back into the importance of inclusion and equity moving forward.

“I would see accessibility as one more mechanism where we can focus going forward on making sure everyone is included in a worship space, and have that opportunity for full participation.”

Melanie Kiely, believes the Royal Commission is a good thing for Australia.

“It’s going to be a good thing for everyone,” she said. “You take the lid off the can of worms nd we can improve and stop bad behaviour and get better. We’ve got to keep improving.

“We’re not about protecting ourselves and we’re not about covering things up. We’re about learning from our past mistakes and moving on and not making them again.

“What we’re aiming for is a society that truly embraces diversity and inclusion, and that includes people with disabilities, and adapt the model of what we think perfect is, to be one that is beautiful diverse and imperfect.”

Melanie said the Royal Commission will be felt throughout the church – in our agencies, schools and congregations.

“I would see accessibility as one more mechanism where we can focus going forward on making sure everyone is included in a worship space, and have that opportunity for full participation.”

“I think it’s right across the board and I think it may or may not include an element of redress,” she said.

“It’s very wide reaching, and at this stage it’s going to go for another two years. There’s going to be a lot more hearings on a lot more topics.”

Dr Elaine Ledgerwood, Uniting Church WA Presbytery Minister – Education and Training, is a theologian with past experience in Occupational Therapy. Having worked with people with disabilities and listening to their stories, mixed with studying and continuously learning about God’s all-inclusive love, Elaine believes we are all vulnerable to disability throughout our lives.

“You are only temporarily able,” Elaine said. “For many people, this is likely to change.

“People with disabilities are like the rest of us – we all have our different hopes and fears, different personalities and different understandings of faith. One

day you might have a disability too; when that’s the case, I am sure you would like others in your congregation to ensure you are included in their activities.”

Theologically, Elaine said that sometimes people can make comments about a disability which may be in good faith, but which can actually be quite harmful.

“Spiritual abuse is a problem, such as when people get told they need to pray harder for healing,” Elaine said. “Instead, ask questions to help people find their own connection between their faith and disability. 

“Using disability as a metaphor for the bad things in life – for example, talking about the Pharisees being ‘blind’ – can often be experienced as being judgemental about disability. Yes, it is something the gospel writers did, but we now understand the harm this can cause.

“Disabilities can be part of someone’s identity. So, saying things like ‘in heaven you’ll be walking’, or similar, is not always helpful. How would you feel if a key part of your identity was dismissed as not being important? Remember the resurrected Christ still carried the wounds of the crucifixion.”

However, living with disability does not always define a person, and Elaine said we should not make assumptions about anyone and their abilities.

“Disabilities do not define people. Just because you’ve known someone else with the same disability doesn’t mean you know this person. Get to know each person as an individual.”

Dr Scott Hollier believes that we have come a long way in Australia towards creating more accessibility, but that there is still a way to go.

“There’s been a generational shift around views and attitudes of people with disability and inclusion in society. That’s not just a church thing, but more broadly,” he said.

“I think as we continue to move forward with more awareness and education of the rights and needs of people with disability, that across society, and that includes religious organisations, that will get better.

“One of the great things about church is that it is a really supportive and inclusive environment. The lack of accessibility has never suggested to me that people don’t care or that people aren’t wanting to provide support – often it’s a lack of awareness.

“It’s been my experience that once people understand what the needs are, they’ve been very willing to make those accommodations. There’s a lot of great people who are willing to do great things to support equity, and it’s just a matter of letting people know about it.”

Tips for being an accessible church

Dr Scott Hollier shares these great tips for how your church or organisation can become more accessible in digital and physical spaces.

  • Make sure overhead slides have large font with good colour contrast, eg a dark background with white text. If people are still unable to see the slides, having devices (like an iPad) available with a link to see them can also be helpful.
  • Make sure videos have captions.
  • Distribute electronic versions of meeting documents before meetings.
  • Make sure PDF documents and newsletters are digitally accessible.
  • It is an Australian requirement that websites are compliant with the WCAG 2.1 AA standard, which has a range of key components. When building a new website, make sure to read up about these requirements or ask your web designer to work them in. 
  • Make sure physical access to, from and around the building is clear and open, giving thought to things like space, handrails, and clutter.

Resources for more information about how to get your congregation on board with accessibility can be found on the website for the Centre for Accessibility Australia at accessibility.org.au.

The Centre for Accessibility Australia can also work with congregations and organisations as they commit to this journey. Contact them for more information on 0466 099 101 or email admin@accessibility.org.au.

Heather Dowling

Conflicted Confusion

Kingston, Ontario

It’s okay if you steal

It’s okay if you swindle

It’s okay if you lie

All will be forgiven

.

It’s okay if you are greedy

It’s okay if you were too cowardly to speak up

It’s okay if you slander

All can be forgiven

.

If you commit adultery

If you are lusting

If you consume porn

You might be forgiven

.

The societal jury will deliberate

The judgment damaging

The rules firmly in place

By those who live with privilege

.

The greedy are appreciated

When their money supports

Noble causes and more

What is not to admire

.

The liars are okay

They simply misspoke

They meant well

They promise to do better

.

Those who gossip and slander

A bit harder to tolerate

They can be toned down

Harm not intended

.

Patriarchy well established

Raised to live straight

With serial monogamy

Getting a passing grade

.

Those with privilege make the rules

So best to learn early

How not to be shunned

By flying below the radar

.

Jesus came for those in need

Those the establishment sidelined

Those who are shunned

An identity at odds with the mainstream

.

Wanting to be valued

Seeking intimacy

Cherishing a trusted partner

Valuing a committed relationship

.

Often not validated as a person

Cast aside

Judged

Oppressed

Shunned

Ignored

Harassed

.

Ours is not to judge, to condemn

To be an inadvertent accessory

To harassment, to prejudice

To hopelessness, to suicide

.

Oh to live what we believe

To reach out

With love, with compassion

The acceptance Christ taught

.

There is no triage for sin

All motives, all hurts

All misdemeanours, all poor choices

Each person in need of forgiveness

.

Live humbly

Show compassion

Conveying hope

A bright future for each

Jasper Hoogendam (C) April 2022

.

Colossians 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

Psalm 103:6 The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.

New International Version

Experiencing Ableism

Street sculpture – Kingston, Ontario

This post may come across as somewhat harsh. Some statements might also make a person feel like their good intentions are being unfairly targeted.

The upside of either reaction is that one is being given an opportunity to learn, to be empathetic to a segment of the population whose experiences and point of view can be foreign.

In most cases people who have made ableist comments or engaged in ableist actions will argue that they were being well meaning. Often such behaviour happens out a ignorance. Ableism is all too common but not obvious around people with disabilities.

An example of ableist behaviour is helping a person who is struggling because of their disability. They might have spilled the contents of their knapsack. Stepping in and helping even though the disabled person says they can manage is a clear example of ableist behaviour driven by good intentions.

A Learning Process

Since I have an acquired disability I have gone through a learning process in dealing with ableism. I am gradually learning what it’s like to be on the receiving end of ableist thinking and behaviour. When I’ve experienced ableist behaviour I have found myself in a situation of inner turmoil. The turmoil comes from being offended or annoyed by the behaviour while at the same time trying to take the high road and telling myself I’m being petty by feeling offended.

In struggling with the idea of not being offended I think of the mantra, “The only person you can change is yourself.” Yet my negative experience with ableism makes me want and desire to see others understand and show a willingness to change their thinking. When the thinking changes, the improvement in behaviour will hopefully follow.

Pointing out ableist behaviour is a challenge. Self-advocacy is fraught with potential pitfalls. I find it much easier to advocate when someone else with a disability experiences discrimination.

Experiencing Ableism

I have experienced ableism in different ways and in very different settings. Some examples clearly look like they come from a place of caring. What is overlooked is an understanding of respect for personal boundaries. In the same way that a first responder asks an injured person for permission to help, the same respect for personal boundaries apply.

My experience with ableism has come in a variety of forms:

  • Comments about how unfortunate it is to have to live with your disability just when you reach retirement. The statement focuses on the assumption that my disability put limits on me, implying a reduction in quality of life and sense of fulfillment. At times I might detect a hint of pity. (People who have the ability to change but choose not to are to be pitied.)
  • Questioning my judgement on certain decisions I make. Part of the assumption hints at a sense that my disability somehow clouds my judgement. This more than hints at an assumption that I don’t know my needs, limitations or abilities. I make my choices, like anyone else, based on how I know myself. As a result I make good and poor choices just like anyone else.
  • Having my requests for accommodations ignored. This is further exacerbated when the request is dismissed out of hand with not a single question being asked. At times my request has been followed up by a comment that I am being uncaring of someone else’s needs or desires. This leaves an impression of total disregard and a lack of willingness to show some understanding.
  • Having people refuse to acknowledge my disability by making hurtful statements about some of my actions. Accusing me of inappropriate behaviour rather than using the opportunity to ask questions to better understand the issue.
  • I have been told that I’m an inspiration. While that might seem positive, it actually isn’t. I simply do what I am able to do. My abilities guide what I choose to do as would anyone else. My disability has taught me things that otherwise would not be part of who I am. Anyone can be an inspiration, with or without a disability.
  • My concerns have been ignored or challenged when I point out behaviours in others that exacerbate my symptoms. The lack of even acknowledging their behaviour shows a lack of consideration and willingness to look beyond themself.

How to be minimize the fallout of an Ableist faux pas

In the examples I listed there are two things at play. Some of the ableist blips come out of a lack of understanding. Other ableist blips come from a lack of self awareness and respect for others.

When someone has their ableist behaviour pointed out they have a choice. A negative response, denial or other defensive response will shut the door to a caring outcome.

A response of contriteness and an acknowledgement of their lack of understanding leaves the door open for a caring outcome. To ask for clarification or an explanation would usually be welcomed. Depending on the situation a further discussion could be agreed on at a later date.

The other type of ableism comes out of a lack of respect for other people, possibly but not necessarily because they are different. Ignoring requests is clearly a social faux pas that is clearly hurtful. The lack of respect has very little to do with not being knowledgeable about a person’s disability.

Someone living with a hidden disability being the object of ableist behaviour is no less excusable. Anyone should have enough personal integrity to initially take another person at their word. Prejudging a person rather than asking for clarification is a clear sign of disrespect.

Caring People

Most of my experience while living with a disability has involved caring people. I have been engaged in activities where others who are aware of my disability look out for my needs. I have had people ask me questions because they can’t make sense of my pattern of behaviour. I have always welcomed people who are interested and willing to learn.

Living with the reality

In general ableism comes from an outlook that people with disabilities, be it mental, emotional, physical are somehow less of a whole person. With ableism the observer focuses on a person’s perceived deficit rather than accepting the person for who they are.

I have learned to accept my disability. I have changed in certain ways because of my disability. I have grown in new areas. I have taken on activities due to the changes in my abilities. I see this as part of life long learning.

I find it encouraging, respectful and hopeful when others fall in step with me and show they too are willing to be life long learners. I consider myself part of a rich diversity of the people who make up our society.

I would like to see a stronger focus on making room for all to participate more fully in their community.

A Question

Feel free to share experiences of ableism have you been part of. What have you learned from the experience?

Jasper Hoogendam (C) April 2022

(*) I have used information from the following website to help formulate my thoughts.

https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-ableism

For additional information on this topic see: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/ableism#ableism

Resurrecting Memories

Seven years of waking up

Stepping out of bed

Reaching for a shirt from the corner chair

A limited selection of what to wear

.

Seven years of waking up

Not planning what to wear

No memory of what’s behind the door

Shirts forgotten, abandoned in the closet

.

I woke up to a new morning

Something was different

Something in me changed

Something in me stirred

.

My waking glance moved past the chair

Not stopping till it reached the second door

Clothes neatly hanging in the closet

Something in there awakened my memory

.

I pulled out a purple shirt

Taking me back seven years

Back to my working days

Before my life had been upended

.

Memories of Purple Thursdays

A whimsical weekly event

Colleagues synchronizing their wardrobe

Signalling a common purpose

.

I slipped on my shirt

Awakening an inner glow

As I donned a matching tie

A most royal appearance indeed

.

Not one to use clothes as a statement

Emboldened as my spirit gradually lifted

To honour my heavenly king

Who arose on Easter morning

Jasper Hoogendam (c) April 2022

Unbound

Receding Loops

You stood near me

Others stood by

Mumbling into your sleeve

To whom were they directed

.

You stood near me

I looked over

Struggling to hear

Straining to decipher the message

.

“If you can’t look at me, you can’t see yourself.”

From: Aphorism on a Cloudy Day by IntellectualShaman.com

.

Did you even see me?

Were you accepting my apology?

My unconditional apology

Or was this an ill constructed soapbox

.

I pointed out how your actions hurt me

I searched for a common understanding

I regret the hurt my delivery caused you

It’s not for me to undo the hurt you put on me

.

Outlining your conditions

Nullifying the apology

A hurting heart

Not ready for healing

.

Not recognizing my recent re-injury

My loss of focus

My loss of short term memory

One by one your words fell into the abyss

.

What compelled you to posture acceptance

I was overwhelmed by your pain

I recall the after shadow of your struggle

As one by one your words fell into the abyss

.

The non-acceptance

A betrayal of self

Unsuccessfully hiding your hurt

Missing the invitation for healing

.

You stood near me

And yet so far away

I won’t hold you down

Grace knows no bounds

.

I won’t hamper your release

Only you can choose to be unfettered

To cast aside what binds you

To cast aside what blinds you

.

Just as I am

Without one plea

Beneath the cross

Released through grace

.

Being freed from recent hurts

Bright hope for tomorrow

Easter morning

Bringing unbounded joy

.

Jasper Hoogendam (c) April 2022

Trauma Meets Trauma

Receding Rings

An event upended my world

No visible physical scars

No injury props in sight

No casual indications of the event

.

An event upended my world

The physical injury is real

An array of props in full time use

Easily missed by the casual observer

.

No badge of honour to mark the event

No leg cast on which to inscribe signatures or jokes

No overt visual signs or signals

To give an obvious hint of the change

.

The daily challenges abound

Fatigue abruptly shortens my day

Memory lapses skew my plans

Conversation blips when words fail to appear

Headaches wear down my patience

My focus diverted when I’m interrupted

.

The tyranny of a disability

The inabilities creating chaos in its wake

How can I bring some clarity

To the unintended fallout

.

You feign interest in my upended world

While offended by my disability

My emotional lability

Labelled a moral failure

.

The words I struggle to share

Met with resistance, contradicted

Creating cognitive dissonance

Hampered by my lack of mental flexibility

.

Are you uncomfortable walking along side?

Can you envision my upended world?

Can you accept my altered self?

Is this too far outside your experience?

.

As you briefly walked along side me

You weren’t refusing to hear me

You weren’t just being difficult

You simply could not comprehend

.

It’s when I looked more closely at you

I was intrigued to see a wounded person

The nature of your trauma hid from me

Sadly your trauma not acknowledged

.

I was intent on seeking some understanding

Wanting my disability hurts to be shared

Wanting my limitations to be recognized

Seeking support, encouragement, empathy

.

I failed to see the challenges that you live with

The longing for recognition, to be appreciated

Wanting to feel valued, hustling your worthiness

A pursuit with no tangible goal

.

My trauma has changed me

My growing acceptance coming in small steps

Each step reaching out forming a bridge

A small step towards my understanding of grace

.

I abandon my Good Friday burden

I no longer choose to carry

Accepting the invitation by grace

Basking in the Easter morning glow

.

Jasper Hoogendam (c) April 2022

Social Hangover

An invitation to lunch

After a long winter of absence

Eight retired colleagues

Hosted at a local restaurant

.

Eight people talking

Conversation to my left

Laughter to my right

Trying to follow along

.

Gaps in the news being shared

Struggling to reorient with missing bits

A new conversation starts up

I follow along till I get distracted

.

A potpourri of unrelated topics

While perusing the menu

Trying to stay in sync as fragments

of conversation come my way

.

My life’s not complicated

By strange food allergies

Though I begin to wonder

Can one have social allergies

.

I have no indications that I need to explore

The remote possibility of food intolerance

Maybe I need to take a closer look

There might be elements of social intolerance

.

Not all social environments suit me equally

The exceptionally long wait for the overworked waitress

Messes with the subtle strain of mental inflexibility

Being in conversation while trying to remember my menu choice

.

The social environment with it’s quirks

The disrupted rhythm steadily draining me

As I adjust to the changes in rhythm

Struggling to maintain my social balance

.

Two more welcoming social events

That rounded out my day

Foregoing my needed down time

Not wanting to cancel and disappoint

.

The next morning greeted by a social hangover

A night of uninterrupted deep sleep

Though not enough to be fully revived

Waking up to a brain fog lifting oh so slowly

.

Why won’t my control center come on line?

My muscles sore and reluctant to flex

My tendons tight slowing my movements

Each step an accomplished feat

.

My body missing it’s needed balance

My social hangover a gentle reminder

That I must be a more considerate listener

When my body sends out subtle cues and clues

.

Cancelled plans will mark my day

A slower pace giving pause to listen

The day progressing with a growing assurance

Tomorrow will not disappoint

Jasper Hoogendam (c) April 2022

Badge of Honour

If my leg was in a plaster cast

Kids would rush to open the door for me

Strangers would offer to help me up the stairs

A friend would gladly run an errand for me

.

Many a person would be honoured

To sign their full name

Or inscribe their favourite slogan

On my stark white plastercast trophy

.

I don’t wear a plaster cast

I don’t have my arm in a sling

I don’t need a pair of crutches

I don’t have stitches to close a gap

.

I can open the door by myself

once I know I need to pull

or use the handi-assist button

then careful to step to the side

.

I can climb the stairs on my own

once I pause to stop the forward rhythm

and prepare for an up and down rhythm

holding the handrail to confirm my balance

.

I can run household errands on my own

at times confused by the busy signage

sometimes coming home with the wrong item

often heading home with my list half done

.

My injury carries no badge of honour

Others don’t jump up to help

Though I know they would be eager

If they knew what would ease my day

.

My injury is not very visible

The challenges revolve below the surface

At times creating enough chaos

The physical effects subtly visible

.

That’s when I’m deeply moved

By people in tune to the physical signs

Stepping forward showing that they care

I would pin on them a badge

my invisible but real badge of honour

Jasper Hoogendam (c) April 2022

Growing

I’m proud of you and so will assure

That you are being nourished

That you are well grounded

Giving you the energy you need

.

May you grow tall and proud

Searching for the light to thrive

That’s why I train you to ready you

So you don’t wander into the shadows and dark places

.

I train you to reach new heights

Redirecting you when you wander

Not wanting you to get lost in the confusion

Nudging you so you don’t lose the vitality to grow

.

Once you’ve reached the end of your training

Feel free to go as the wind blows

Go wild, produce fruit, be proud

Each year anew producing another bean crop.

Jasper Hoogendam (c) April 2022

Betwixt Soundscapes & Socialscapes

One player in the soundscape

Embracing Monday morning

Away from the social demands

Having reveled in two significant celebrations

First a family celebration, then a community event

.

Reflecting on Monday morning

Having attended two life events

Sharing in life long choices held dear

Witnessing pivotal events of commitment

.

Savouring Monday morning

No social demands to fill

A time to shed the inner chaos

Content despite my sensory loading

.

Soaking in my Monday morning

A soundscape of melodies

Yet each musical note where it belongs

Birds are not quiet in the early morning

.

A soothing Monday morning

Nature’s comforting dialogue

Sounds that belong

A symphony of order

.

A relaxing Monday morning

No schedules to honour

Only self selected tasks

Allow the inner balance to return

.

A calm Thursday morning

Time to visit a friend

Gauge my renewed resilience

Seeking the assurance that all is well

.

Emerging on a Friday morning

The complexity of mixing with people

A conversation of five

Noting facial cues – five fold

Reading body language – five fold

Choosing to join in

Interpreting tone

Responding

Missing a social cue

Struggling to stay focused

Evolving facial cues

A gap in the conversation

Noting changes in tone

Some laughter

Body language shifting

Wanting to respond

Struggling to stay focused

Another gap

Sensory load building

Neural fatigue setting in

slip away

unnoticed

relief

disappointment

seeking solitude

a quiet place

alone

.

Don’t worry about me

Don’t try to help

Don’t ask me questions

I can’t reply

I need the chaos to settle

Allow me the time I need

I welcome company

Just can’t control the social overdose

.

Socialscapes requires relearning skills

The familiar patterns a jumble

The art of navigating with grace

Reluctantly accepting the social endurance test

Jasper Hoogendam (c) March 2022